“Disguise a hole on delicate fabrics by using invisible thread to mend it,” says John Mahdessian, president of the high-end garment care company Madame Paulette, which handles pieces for Sotheby’s and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “If the hole is in an obvious place, you can create a seam in a uniform place on both sides.” Kristina Franco of online vintage resource The Allen Company agrees, adding: “The piece may go down a size, but it’s saved.” Or, suggests Franco, “add an appliqué, trimming or beading over the torn area. This can be done easily by hand.”
Before you launder, check the fabric.
Mahdessian and Cameron Silver, co-owner and founder of Decades in Los Angeles, both counsel taking beloved pieces to a good dry cleaner first. “Many ‘40s dresses are rayon, which is not smart to hand wash,” says Silver. More recent pieces in sturdier fabrics can be washed gently. Franco mixes a bath of Palmolive and a pinch of OxiClean. “I’ve soaked pieces for up to two weeks,” she says. Silver’s preferred suds are Citrus Magic Fine Fabric Wash.
Armpit sweat and deodorant can be corrosive to fabric, leaving rings and stains. Mahdessian advises a thorough washing of the area prior to laundering the whole garment. Pre-treating the area with Deo-Go is another effective option.
While altering a rare or unusual garment should be done by a pro, “hemming a skirt with a base stitch is something many of us can do,” says Silver. “Replacing buttons is a do-it-yourself option. And If you’re feeling lazy, use shears to remove sleeves or shorten a skirt and leave a raw edge for a Lanvin-esque unfinished look.”
Store it gently.
Now that your beloved piece is clean, mended and fitted, keep it fresh. Use silk padded or velvet covered hangers, says Mahdessian. “They prevent stretching and possible tearing,” he says. “Wire hangers can often cause unnecessary stress. And you can use tissue paper to support the garment properly.” An occasional spritz of Earthworm Household Odor Eliminator will keep any lingering mustiness at bay. The product uses natural enzymes that are safe for delicate fabrics.